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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

April 21, 2005


We've mentioned the fantasy writer Tim Powers in the past. A while ago I managed to get hold of On Stranger Tides, his book about pirates 'n' magic (which I'm convinced the Johnny Depp film Pirates of the Caribbean shamelessly plagiarised) - which means I now have all his novels, apart from the first two, which I don't think are in the same vein. Just ordered them anyway, along with his new collection of short stories.

Look around the web and you'll find plenty of garishly designed websites dedicated to Powers (book fans do not make good designers). The key thing about him, as we've said before, is that he doesn't so much write alternative histories as rewrite the history we know as if everything that happened was to do with magic, sorcery, or restless ghosts.

The key thing about his books that makes them ooze quality is the painstaking research that Powers has obviously done. You find it hard to separate the fact from the fiction, but you will discover that odd things did happen: things that Powers has built whole worlds of fiction around.

For example, Simon's Wordsworth quote below put me in mind of The Stress of Her Regard, which is about the poets Byron and Shelley and their dealings with supernatural creatures and magical doppelgangers. It's brilliant, and makes reference to Byron's Letter to John Murray, as featured on one of the Powers fan sites:
"He told me that in 1810 he met me as he thought in St. James's Street, but we passed without speaking. --He mentioned this -- and it was denied as impossible -- I being then in Turkey. --A day or two after he pointed out to his brother a person on the opposite side of the way -- 'there' --said he 'is the man I took for Byron' --his brother instantly answered 'why it is Byron & no one else.' --But this is not all -- I was seen by somebody to write down my name amongst the Enquirers after the King's health -- then attacked by insanity."

Fantastic indeed.


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